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Updated on January 7, 2012

Most of Burundi is a high rugged grassland plateau at 1,200 to 2,400 meters which rises to the east of the rift valley that runs north to south through east Africa. Lake Tanganyika and the tropical Ruzizi River valley lie in the trough of the rift valley. Although Burundi is near the equator the average annual temperature is only 21 ac because of the altitude.

Rainfall is irregular but averages 140 cm on high ground and less than 101 cm in the southwest.

Most of the people are peasant farmers who produce barely enough for their own needs. They grow bananas, beans, cassava, cotton, coffee, groundnuts, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes and tea.

Exports are small, and coffee accounts for 75% of them and cotton 20%. Some cassiterite (tin ore) is mined. However, there is little manufacturing, and the country imports cotton goods, motor vehicles, synthetic textiles, flour and petroleum products.

The Hutu, a Bantu-speaking, peasant people, form 85% of the population. Most of the others are tall, aristocratic, Hamitic Tursi. Burundi also has a few Twa (pygmies). French and Kirundi are the official languages.

Burundi was part of the Belgian trust territory of Ruanda-Urundi until 1962, when it became an independent monarchy. In 1966, Tursi officers deposed the Tursi mwami ('king') and established a republic.

Nearly 120,000 people, both Tursi and Hutu, died when attempted coups by the Hutu were savagely put down in the 1970s.


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